Impression of Contentment…

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Pablo Picasso
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Pablo Picasso image Wikipedia

I never really got contentment. “Are you happy?” I once asked a friend. “No, but I am content,” was his reply. To me, it wasn’t enough. It seemed like accepting some kind of mediocrity. I was young then and life was lived in all the vivid hues of passion. Emotion ran sky high or hit the depths… the times in between were bland, a mere waiting for the next rise and fall of the rollercoaster.

Emotions, back then, were all sharp-edged, like a cubist painting… and like such works, always disassembling the object of them to examine them from every angle. Some of the edges were so sharp you would bleed if you touched them… but you were alive. There were no in-between days of grey and dun.

Alizarine: sandorfi, maklary
Alizarine: Etienne Sandorfi, image: Maklary

A little older and the days took on a greater realism. The consequences of action and reaction were more direct as the responsibilities of adulthood were revealed in stark detail. Like looking in the mirror, these days reflected back at you only what you projected into them. The colours were still sharp; the detail and emotion clear… all the edges well-defined. A delineated life, with specific duties… niches for the fragmented self that is required by the roles demanded by the varied aspects of a society that likes to label everything.

But even that changed, morphing into abstraction where the lines and stark hues threw everything into question and the secure assumptions of youth that had flown direct as arrows suddenly seemed to realise that infinity is not a straight line. Stubbornly held beliefs were taken out of the strongbox and held up to the Light. Some were found to be tarnished, others broken, some simply too outmoded to be of any pertinent use. Yet there is a freedom in that de-cluttering of heart and mind, a simplicity that leaves much open to interpretation and, like a gallery, the fewer you hold on to, the more you can begin to appreciate what remains in all its glory.

The Depth of Woman by Benjamin Prewiit
The Depth of Woman by Benjamin Prewitt

These days I have a preference for a more Impressionistic style. I like my edges softer, the detail less focussed. I like to be able to stand back and lose myself in the moment in order to see a bigger picture, full of suggestions and possibilities half-glimpsed; open to the imagination and the emotional whispering of the heart-centred soul. There is something about this time that both softens and excites. I find that I like the lack of definition, the gaps only my heart and mind can fill. Instead of wondering about the name of the artist, I ask instead what message they were trying to convey.

And finally, I know contentment. It is not that there is nothing I could wish had been different. Nor is it that there is no looking back in the knowledge that I could have done things differently… for better or worse… Yet there is an acceptance that everything has its purpose. Like the myriad dots of a pointillist painting, each speck of experience may seem out of place when looked at too closely in time and emotion, yet stand back and the colours of the days blend and merge into something beautiful, understandable and whole, where every scrap of colour is in the perfect place.

A_Sunday_on_La_Grande_Jatte,_Georges_Seurat,_1884
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat. Image Wikipedia

There is a new beauty… and it is far from the mediocrity of my youthful disdain. The colours of this new world are deep and rich, their contrasts sing against each other, dark illuminating light. I can see that both are needful and their harmony beautiful. The detail fades in importance; the whole is where the story lies, waiting for our eyes to read it on a wider canvas than the frantic myopia of youth can encompass. The frame of my days holds a beauty only the heart can see and its starry skies are streaked by the fingertips of the creator.

The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh
The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh. Imgae: Wikipedia

Normality

“Normality is a paved road: it is comfortable to walk on, but no flowers grow on it.”
Vincent Van Gogh

There are certain things we learn in order to live as part of a society that has, at least, the potential to live in harmony. There are orderly patterns that make up our lives, dictated by everything from our natural biology and emotions, to societal pressures and the necessities of survival. To live a normal life is to adhere to those patterns.

Yet, it is seldom those who do so who achieve greatness in any field. It is the rule-breakers, the mavericks, the innovators; it is those who use the imagination to create… it is those ordinary people who end up living extraordinary lives who change the world and the way we see it.

Some actively pursue fame and fortune, bringing all their drive to bear upon the task in hand. Others find a different path leads them away from the security of their own normality and they may find themselves blinking in an unexpected spotlight. For most of us though, ‘normality’ is the path we tread.

Or is it?

How many of us fit the accepted mould of ‘normality’ and what is it anyway? The outer life may have a steady job, marriage, car, dog and… 2.4 children. That ‘.4’ has never struck me as ‘normal’ in any way… average, perhaps, but not what you would call normal. How is slightly less than half a child ‘normal’? The mind boggles…

heather 2015 derbyshire, higger tor, beeley circle, edensor, bak 102

But what about the inner life? Do you dream? Do you imagine? Do you wish and shape and change your world with every passing thought? Do you look at the stars and wonder? Imagination knows no bounds and creates its own normality… which may be far from the mundane outer world in which many of us must live. And a far cry from some arbitrary normality which refers more to a mathematical average. We are none of us ‘normal’… we are unique.

Those who break free of the accepted norm of the workaday world may find a rocky path ahead, with steep ascents, potholes, uneven surfaces and many twists and turns… but away from the concrete and asphalt is where the wildflowers grow and where wonder awaits over every horizon.

The road that carries us through the realms of necessity can be hard, straight and narrow. That is only part of our lives and we are free to break every limit within the realms of mind… and sometimes imagination spills flowers in our path.

heather 2015 derbyshire, higger tor, beeley circle, edensor, bak 089